Are You a High-Engagement/High-Burnout-Risk Employee?

Employee engagement has become a popular buzzword and concept in recent years. Burnout risk has been acknowledged longer than that. However, what happens when the two concepts “collide”? And are you affected by that collision?

According to a recent article in Harvard Review, HR and management might be missing the boat in assuming that employee engagement is one version of the Holy Grail. If you’re one of those who feels very engaged in your work but also about ready to scream and start an aggressive job search, you might want to disagree with their view!

Why Engagement Alone is Not Enough

If your desk reflects the chaos hammering at your mind, that’s a possible sign of trouble brewing. Even a highly engaged employee can buckle if the squeeze on him/her creates an overload situation.

The Harvard Review article, “1 in 5 Highly Engaged Employees Is at Risk of Burnout,” talks about the fact that employee engagement, by itself, is not enough to ensure retaining employees who are engaged top performers. For instance:

“These engaged-exhausted workers were passionate about their work, but also had intensely mixed feelings about it — reporting high levels of interest, stress, and frustration. While they showed desirable behaviors such as high skill acquisition, these apparent model employees also reported the highest turnover intentions in our sample — even higher than the unengaged group.”

Does that sound anything like you? If so, it’s something you might want to think about.

High Engagement Without High Burnout Risk

If you’re in the high burnout risk category, it might be because your employer doesn’t realize too much is being expected of you without the resources that would enable you to fulfill your responsibilities and yet not burn out. It’s like being told, “You have two weeks to complete this major project, which the previous team failed to do, and–oh, by the way–we can’t provide you with any full-time help to get it done. You have to do it yourself”!

As the article says:

“In order to promote engagement, it is crucial to provide employees with the resources they need to do their job well, feel good about their work, and recover from work stressors experienced through work….

“while wellness initiatives can be helpful, a much bigger lever is the work itself. HR should work with front-line managers to monitor the level of demands they’re placing on people, as well as the balance between demands and resources. The higher the work demands, the higher employees’ need for support, acknowledgement, or opportunities for recovery.”

Can You Avoid the High-Burnout Trap?

For the sake of your mental and physical health–as well as the long-term career success you want to experience–you need to do at least these 3 things:

  1.  Recognize if/when you are in the trap–such as still feeling excited about your job but also overwhelmed by the unrelenting job stress being placed on you.
  2. Decide whether you have realistic options to mitigate the situation. For example, can you work out a more reasonable balance, short breaks, etc., with your immediate boss, so that you can catch your breath and regroup periodically?
  3. If you don’t see a viable option in your present work situation, look for other options either inside your company or through a new job with a different employer.

If your company can’t do what you need, find your freedom in the way that benefits you and your career the most with the least downside risk.

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